5 Reasons Freelancers Accept Low-Paying Work And How To Break Free Of Them

Working for peanuts

Low-paying work is a reality for many freelancers—and probably is or has been for you too. It certainly was mine for a long time.

Come to think of it, I don’t know any freelancer who started out at the top of the freelancing pay scale. I do know plenty who started at the bottom though!

Unfortunately, I also know plenty who’re still stuck writing for low pay. If you aren’t, then you definitely know someone who is. Having spent time in the low-paying rut myself, and having talked to freelancers who still are, I’ve realized there are five reasons freelancers accept low-paying work—even when they don’t want to.

1. Lack of experience

Freelancers with little or no experience are insecure. They don’t have any samples worth writing home about or former clients to vouch for them. How will they convince someone to pay more for their work?

The key here is not to think in terms of experience but in terms of providing value.

To be honest, it’s a rare freelancer who isn’t intimidated by his or her lack of experience. I was so intimidated I wrote my first article for $5!

It wasn’t long after I saw the results my clients were getting from my writing that I realized I should be paid more.

Pay attention to the results your clients get from your writing. And when those results reflect favourably towards you, move in and ask for a raise. Use those results to convince prospective clients (and yourself!) that your increased rates are worth it.

2. Lack of samples

Lack of samples isn’t as big a problem as lack of ‘usable’ samples is. Many freelancers start off by writing for content mills (I did too), which leads to all their samples being written for content mills.

That’s not something we want to advertise to prospective clients.

Getting usable samples is not the mountain we make it out to be though. It’s very simple to get writing samples. It’s as simple as starting your own blog, guest posting on other blogs, and doing pro bono work.

For more ideas on getting samples, read 5 Simple Ways To Get Writing Samples When You Don’t Have Any

3. Lack of clients

If you’ve been writing exclusively for content mills, you probably don’t have actual clients yet. You’re unsure of how to go about getting clients when all you have is mill work to your name. And let’s be honest, who respects mill work anyway?

The only thing you need to land actual clients are samples and we’ve already covered how to get them above.

Take a good look at your personal, professional and social networks. Have you made it clear that you’re a writer for hire? If not, it’s time to do so. Send out an email letting your contacts know about what you do. Create an email signature and let it tell people if you don’t want to toot your own horn. Create a writer website to refer to prospective clients and include an about, samples and hire me page.

4. Lack of confidence

A freelancer’s lack of confidence stems from their lack of experience and belief in their writing abilities.

Here’s something a client told me when describing his business’s unique selling point to me. He said, ‘No one else does what we do, like we do. No one else brings the exact combination of knowledge and expertise to the table that we do. No one else…’

So here’s the thing: No one writes like you do and no other writer brings the same set of writing skills that you do to the table.

In short, no one does it like you do.

5. Lack of vision

Another thing that keeps freelancer stuck in low paying writing gigs is a lack of vision. If you don’t know where your freelance writing business is going, you won’t know what to do to move forward.

Do you even think of your freelancing as a business?

Figure out what you want to achieve with your freelancing, where you want it to go and how much you want to earn. Having clear goals and a vision of where you want to be will give you the added boost you need to break free from low-paying writing gigs.

Need to earn more? How To Break Free From Low-Paying Writing Gigs (And Earn More) is 6-week ecourse that shows you how to do just that. Email courses not your thing? You can also get the self-study or ebook version of the course—at a lower price.

Samar is a freelance blogger, e-book writer and the voice behind this blog. She loves her kid, her work and helping freelance writers break free from low paying writing gigs and earn more .

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16 comments
copywritenow
copywritenow like.author.displayName 1 Like

Another excellent article - the last point's a very good one, if you don't look ahead and have plans for your business you can easily get trapped by short-sighted goals that don't realise your full potential (like thinking 'I just need to make enough to buy food'!). 

vero4travel
vero4travel

I have discovered this website and congrats it's very usefull.

Nowadays Im an spanish travel writter and I want to start to write in english about travel or marketing online. Im earning some money with my travel blog, but talking about your post I have lack in your first point.

I want to find a blog to start writing in english for two reasons, in the future I want to be a freelance writter, and also because in Spain it's very important if you show that you can write in english (for CV). Nowadays Im not waiting money for this in the first colaboration, I just wanna know if you can say me blogs about travel or marketing where I can write.

Thank you. 

@Vero4travel

Jesús Martínez

Elaine Griffin
Elaine Griffin like.author.displayName 1 Like

Really great article! I can relate to all of your points, especially number 4. I've learned (as a web design freelancer) to just suck it up and throw myself out there! 

And yes, freelancing is a business - and the IRS thinks so too.

Samarowais
Samarowais moderator

@Elaine Griffin Thanks Elaine. Lack of confidence was a big one for me as well. I found that not taking rejection personally helped grew my confidence. 

And even though I live in a tax free country, treating my freelancing as a business has definitely helped me be more successful.

Thanks for commenting! 

LuanaSpinetti
LuanaSpinetti like.author.displayName 1 Like

Sometimes content mills can be a good way to break the ice, but they can't last: there's no way to make a living out of mills. Reputable low paying clients offer a better chance.

You're right-- low confidence can ruin a writer's career, when it's clear that every writer has something to offer-- something unique. :) The business vision comes with time, I guess-- I hardly considered myself a business person when I started. But we keep growing; our writing soul can't remain a child forever.

~ Luana S.

P.S. Thank you for your comment on my article on Carol's blog. ^_^ I really appreciated your words!

I sent you an email, too.

Samarowais
Samarowais moderator

@LuanaSpinetti I agree with business vision coming with time. The same's true for confidence. Also, there comes a time when you're so sick of it all that you say 'To hell with it all' and do something gutsy like raising your rates or quitting content mills cold turkey to find new clients.

Have responded to your email and received a reply too! ;)

SNaimath
SNaimath like.author.displayName 1 Like

"Do you even think of your freelancing as a business?" 

90% people don't even think of a business when it comes to freelancing. The very fact that they treat themselves as writers makes them struggle in the industry. Earning $10 requires professional skills, making $1000's requires business skills, which most people don't have/understand.

P.S: I just stumbled upon your site and I must admit, your approach to freelancing is really impressive. Best Wishes! :)

Samarowais
Samarowais moderator

@SNaimath You've nailed it :) It's all about mindset. The minute you start thinking of your freelancing as a business, working for low pay becomes unacceptable. 

Thanks!

Barbara Behan
Barbara Behan like.author.displayName 1 Like

Good post, Samar.  I think one reason is also that some of us want to accumulate good reviews on sites like Elance--so we're willing to bid lower in the beginning.  I just took my first job there and will not end up getting paid what it's worth.  Hopefully it'll pay off with a nice review.  But as you said, one doesn't want to get stuck in that rut.  

Samarowais
Samarowais moderator

@Barbara Behan Welcome Barbara! I don't have to like it to know that the strategy makes sense. But how many good reviews do you need to start quoting more?

Personally, I'd like to see you stop using Elance completely and instead focus your efforts on marketing your business but you gotta do what you gotta do :) Which is why I'm sharing the following:

James Chartrand of Men With Pens tipped in the interview she gave me for my Break Free course: bid what you're worth even when the job poster's budget is lower than your quote. She started off on sites like Elance in case you didn't know and would routinely quote more than the budget that people would say they had and she often got hired on the amount she'd quoted! 

It's really about valuing your work. James confidence in her work paid off. Something to think about huh? :)

Also, contact @salmajafri on Twitter. She has established her freelance business through Elance. She used to have a free ebook about creating and submitting proposals on Elance if I'm not wrong. While her site is in the process of being redesigned, she might be willing to send you that ebook if you ask. Tell her I suggested it :)

Hope this helps you!

AnneWayman
AnneWayman like.author.displayName 1 Like

Samar, well said... lack of confidence seems to be the biggie... 

Samarowais
Samarowais moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

@AnneWayman Yep. It was a major one with me. I see it happening with other freelancers too who hesitate to take a guest posting opportunity here on my blog simply because they feel they don't have enough experience.

writerwade
writerwade like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Samarowais The self-doubt is always there for myself. Sometimes I listen to it, sometimes I ignore it. I need to strive to ignore it all the time. Nice post!

Samarowais
Samarowais moderator

@writerwade I don't think anyone can ignore it all the time Wade. We just need to learn to recognize when we're giving into doubt and start being smart about it :)

Thanks!

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About Samar

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Samar is a freelance blogger and ebook writer.

She's the voice behind this blog, the writer behind each post and the one responsible for all the awesomeness around here.

If you want to outsource your blogging or get an ebook written then she's your girl!

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